$4,000,000 Settlement for Steamfitter Injured in Water Pump Entanglement at Bronx Hospital

DATE OF SETTLEMENT

March 30, 2006

COURT AND COUNTY

Supreme Court, Bronx County

AGE AND OCCUPATION OF PLAINTIFF

At the time of the accident, the Plaintiff was a 32-year-old man who worked as an insulator.

DESCRIPTION OF CASE

On May 15, 2001, Plaintiff was insulating the piping for a water pump at Montefiore Medical Center, in the Bronx. While doing so, his shirtsleeve and/or ponytail became entangled with a spindle on the pump, which was not shrouded. The spindle was moving at an extremely high rate of speed, and it pulled Plaintiff's head, neck, left shoulder and chest into the machine, causing severe burns.

Plaintiff sued the property's owner, the work project's general contractor, a mechanical subcontractor, the company that refurbished, aligned and painted the water pump, and the steam-fitting company that performed the piping work. Plaintiff alleged that the Defendants were negligent in their maintenance of the pump and that their negligence created a dangerous condition.

The hospital, property owner, and mechanical subcontractor commenced a third-party suit against the company that refurbished the water pump and Plaintiff's employer, the insulation company. The third-party Plaintiffs allege that the third-party Defendants were negligent in their maintenance of the spindle.

One Defendant was granted pretrial summary judgment. The matter continued against the remaining Defendants.

Plaintiff's expert engineer contended that the failure to shroud the spindle constituted negligence and that the hospital and property owner had a duty to maintain the premises in a safe manner. He claimed that the unshrouded, rotating spindle constituted a dangerous condition.

The hospital and property owner contended that the mechanical subcontractor was responsible for the accident. In turn, the mechanical subcontractor had control over the machinery involved in the accident, but based on a declaratory judgment action that interpreted the language of the parties' insurance policy, the mechanical subcontractor was required to indemnify and defend the hospital and property owners.

The direct defendants contended that Premier Insulation and Fire Stopping Systems and Frontline Industries had a responsibility to ensure that the spindle was shrouded. Third-party defendants claimed that it specifically asked the hospital to shut off the pumps so that Plaintiff could safely work on insulating pump.

The defense collectively claimed that Plaintiff contributed to causing the incident in that he assumed the risk of working so closely to an obviously dangerous condition and that he failed to ensure that his shirt and pony tail did not come into contact with the spindle.

INJURIES/DAMAGES

Plaintiff was admitted to Montefiore Medical Center and then transferred to Staten Island University Hospital for 10 days. He sustained third-degree burns to his head, neck, left shoulder and chest, requiring two skin grafts. He subsequently underwent a Z-plasty, a plastic surgery technique, to break up and relax scar tissue that restricted his range of motion.

Plaintiff also sustained a fractured skull and a traumatic brain injury resulting in post-concussion syndrome, depression and cognitive deficits that included memory loss and a decline in intellectual functions.

Plaintiff contended that he suffered loss in strength in his left (non-dominant) upper extremity, which limited him in performing his tasks as an insulator and also limited his activities and athleticism with his son.

Plaintiff incurred a $260,000 worker's compensation lien. He sought recovery of the lien amount and damages for his past and future pain and suffering.

The defense argued that Plaintiff was still capable of working as an insulator.

SETTLEMENT AMOUNT

The parties agreed to a $4 million pretrial settlement. The mechanical subcontractor insurer agreed to contribute $2,975,000 with the property owner and water pipe refurbishing company adding an additional $1 million and $25,000, respectively.

ATTORNEYS

This matter was handled by Daniel P. O'Toole, Esq.